REPORT: Oxford 3-4 MK Dons: Thriller sees Dons top the group
MK Dons booked a home clash in the second round of the Checkatrade Trophy after a thrilling 4-3 win over Oxford United on Tuesday night.
Though maligned by the fans, those inside the Kassam Stadium were in for a treat with seven goals, sparked by Brandon Thomas-Asante after just nine minutes. Jack Payne then netted a double to put the home side ahead, only for Gboly Ariyibi then to net a brace at the end of the first half to send Dons in 3-2 up at the break.
While the second half featured fewer goals, the game continued at pace. Rob Hall pulled Oxford level with a wonderful strike but barely a minute later, Ryan Seager won it for the visitors, securing top spot in the group and with it, a home draw in the second round.
With a home draw in the second round, and top spot in the group at stake at the Kassam Stadium, Robbie Neilson fielded a strong side but still made six changes to the side which beat Hyde United in the FA Cup on Friday night, including the reintroduction of Dean Lewington and Robbie Muirhead, while Hyde goal-scorers Aidan Nesbitt and Ed Upson kept their places.
It was a breathless start to the match, despite the sparse crowd in attendance. But the few who were there were treated to a fiesty opening 15 minutes. Joe Rothwell and Jon Obika both forced excellent saves from stand-in keeper Wieger Sietsma, before Dons went straight up the other end with Upson forcing Simon Eastwood into tipping over the bar.
And from that corner, a quickly-taken set piece allowed Brandon Thomas-Asante to turn in the six yard box and lashing home the opener after nine minutes.
But Oxford, who probably should have scored one of their opening efforts, were then denied again by Siestma, who did brilliantly to keep out Jack Payne's effort from range as it dived backwards to tip it over. There was little he could have done to get near Obika's header from the resultant corner though, but he saw it thump against the upright.
While Dons were living a charmed life at one end though, they could and should easily have doubled their lead when Thomas-Asante turned provider from the right flank, picking out Robbie Muirhead - seen in the first team for the first time in a month - who completely missed the ball and it hit his standing foot.
It was end-to-end stuff, with both sides completely bypassing the midfield as they poured forwards. Oxford continued to pepper Sietsma's goal with shots which more often drifted wide of the mark, but it was the visitors who would feel aggrieved when Gboly Ariyibi appeared to be downed by John Mousinho, only for appeals to be waved away by referee Chris Sarginson.
Oxford though would finally get their reward though on 33 minutes, but it came courtesy of an MK Dons mistake. Scott Wootton's slip around 30 yards out allowed Payne to burst past him and after cutting onto his right foot, finally got the better of Sietsma.
He'd then do it again five minutes later this time from the penalty spot. Rob Hall was obstructed by Dean Lewington in the area, with the assistant eventually awarding the penalty which Payne duly slotted home.
But the scoring wasn't done there, and Dons would in fact go in ahead at the break with Ariyibi getting both. The first came within a minute of Oxford's second as he brilliantly bent the ball around Eastwood's dive, before he them poked the ball under Curtis Nelson's tackle attempt and then neatly finishing past Eastwood for 3-2.
The second half didn't quite have the same panache for the opening 20 minutes, but it burst into life again when Oxford caught Dons on the counter after a poor free kick, and Rob Hall, still the pantomime villain to the away fans, did brilliantly to bend the ball up and over Sietsma's dive to equalise.
But no sooner had they kicked off had Dons retaken the lead again. Seager's chances had been few and far between, but a clever one-two with substitute Peter Pawlett allowed him some space in the box to fire Dons 4-3 up.
The drama wasn't limited to just the goals though, and Wootton could think himself very lucky to still be on the field when he gave the ball away to Hall, and with the former Dons loanee looking to break, Wootton had no qualms in hacking him down. Fortunately for the defender though he had cover and was only booked.
Oxford continued to roll the dice as pressed for an equaliser throughout the four minutes of stoppage time, but it was Dons who should have won it when Robbie Muirhead, who had a quiet night in all, broke half the length of the pitch but saw his strike deflected onto the post with the final kick of the game.
Referee: Chris Sarginson
Attendance: 1,182 (101)
Oxford United: Eastwood, Ribiero (Carroll 60), Tiendalli, Nelson, Hall, Payne, Ruffels, Rothwell, Fernandez, Obika, Mousinho
Subs not used: Shearer, Martin, Thomas, Henry, Mowatt, Baptise
MK Dons: Sietsma, Lewington, Williams, Wootton (Logan 79), Ebanks-Landell, Upson, Ariyibi, Thomas-Asante, Nesbitt (Pawlett 60), Muirhead, Seager (Agard 67)
Subs not used: Nicholls, Aneke, Rasulo, Kasumu
Booked: Upson, Fernandez, Thomas-Asante, Wootton, Agard